The Hold Steady @ Borderline, Soho, London
18th February 2007
It’s a normal Sunday evening in London. Well so I thought. Not only was it Chinese new year hence the huge crowds lining the west end, but a very special band were gracing the London stage tonight.
After battling the crowds at Leicester sq, and attempting to find Mr Flowers in the predominantly Chinese crowd we settled down in spoons for a few cheap ones and a quick fire reunion. Arriving at the venue the lack of activity was a worry, the reason for this was to become apparent as soon as we entered. Borderline is the smallest of the three Mean fiddler venues within 200yrds of each other just off Charing Cross road. The venue can only hold 250 people and the setup was awesome, sunken stage front area, tiered standing behind, a raised bar area and an even higher stage.
The New York Fund
After getting here at 8 we were actually early for the opening act, Shocker!!! Who in fact were the same guys i missed at the Ok Go gig, Redemption!! We found ourselves in prime position, that’s 5 feet from both stage and bar with perfect view we gazed on as The New York Fund Guitarist and singer kicked off the eve with a slow lighter worthy ballad. Now joined by the rest of the band they play folk edged indie rock with a definite pop appeal. Most tracks were very lively and sounded great in this small basement club, with good catchy chorus’s and a huge handfuls of melody.
The Hold Steady
Being such a small venue, the need for roadies was vanquished, hence why all except the lead singer was up on stage pre-set to organize their stage trying to decide exactly where they should keep the cool box full of beer. So The Hold Steady made their 10 foot trek onto stage from boozing stage left and kicked off the set with a energy bursting rendition of the lead track from their new LP Boys and Girls In America, Stuck Between Stations. The energy of singer Craig Finn is unparalleled in my experience. He bolts and bounces while slinging his guitar around the stage, shouts, flings his arms crowdwards, all while managing to expertly swig from his can of Carlsberg, here’s a front man who you immediately just like, not just for his energy and the fact he’s a thirytysomething drunk bum drifter, but the sheer passion he puts into each lyric spoken from his gravelly toned vocal chords.
The first half of the gig was ruled by sheer energy and lust for rock and roll and the substances which come as a result. The new album figured heavily with tracks sounding even better live with pounding bass and crunching guitars such as, Chips Ahoy, Massive Nights, “Hot Soft Light”, You can make her love you as well as older treasures. One such gem was Hornets! Hornets! In which the accapella opening lines were a teasing stop start affair as they were impossible to get out, seeing as the tiny crowd were singing them for him.
With the band being so close to pretty much everything in the room, the atmosphere was electric. Where shout outs from the crowd would spark jokes and reactions that showed a great human side to the band. This you just don’t get in a larger venue and it’s totally refreshing. as the set wore on they were wobbling more and more violently with more amusing comments, one which stood out was from the lead guitarist “Its at times like these when I wish I had the operation” while wiping the steam from his glasses” to which Craig responded “I didn’t think a vasectomy could do that?”. Was superb, not only can the rock but they can heckle pretty good too! Meanwhile to be outdone by Craig in the pished stakes the guitarist and keyboardist were playing hot potato with a bottle of Jamesons necking increasing amount with each pass.
After much booze, rock and raw energy the Hold Steady finally called an end to a great show as they disappeared after signing off with the awesome Little Hoodrat Friend. The crowd who were baying for more, were satisfied 2 minutes later with a acoustic performance of the superb ballad Citrus, The room fell into silence and were waiting on each breath, especially when they played an unreleased B-Side. Diving off stage once more, they couldn’t resist but come back for a second encore, much to the delight and surprise of the eager crowd.
This was to be the crowning glory of the night with a lone piano accompanying the stirring lyrics of Certain Songs. This line “certain songs, they just get scratched into you souls” is so true to life and this lyric is to stay with me forever, as is this literally show stopping finale.
As if the night couldn’t get any better it somehow found a way. Firstly got chatting to Franz, the Hold Steady’s keyboardist. Then After agreeing to purchase an Ep of The New York Fund’s guitarist, managed to get backstage and get the rest of the bands to sign it. Was cool to chat to them about the crazy Swedes after their gig the week before at KoKo, “They were just Mental” whooped the drummer. After appearing from backstage, was greeted by the guitarist followed by a long chat with the improbable hero of the night, Craig Finn himself. Most stories he told revolved around booze and a huge Dr. Dre birthday party in Minneapolis, not forgetting his apparent attempts to play glasto this year!
Thats me, and some other awesome random guitarist/lyricist
On a high we left for the tube and put to rest one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, setting a new standard for all to follow. Whether it will be beaten, that’s a tough question, but then I won’t know unless I keep trying! Here’s to the Hold Steady and an absolutely Massive Night.